Even as the Indian cricket board moved closer to ousting Lalit Modi, the suspended IPL chairman, from its fold, a Supreme Court observation left BCCI secretary N Srinivasan in an uncomfortable position.
The crux of the ruling, made by justices J M Panchal and Gyan Sudha Mishra, suggested that Srinivasan should choose between being an officer of the Board and owner of an IPL team. Ironically, one of the things Modi is accused of is favouring friends and family – a conflict of interest – in the awarding of IPL-related contracts.
“Our nagging question is: can you continue in dual capacity? That is the core issue. We are proceeding on the footing that you had a bar on any dual status before your blanket amendment was brought,” said justice Sudha. “We want to know what grave prejudice will be caused to you if we pass an order that you can either continue as the owner of the IPL team or contest the BCCI election.”
The election referred to is the forthcoming September 29 Board elections, in which Srinivasan is expected to be appointed president unopposed. The amendment alluded to is the one the BCCI made, wherein IPL Twenty20 matches were specifically excluded from the clause in the BCCI constitution that barred its members from “directly or indirectly” benefitting from the staging matches.
The fact that this was merely an observation of the Supreme Court, as opposed to an order, gives Srinivasan time to decide his next course of action. Since the matter was *sub judice*, he declined to comment.
The court did not agree with Srinivasan's senior counsel Mukul Rohtagi that there was nothing wrong in the administrator donning the role of the Secretary, contesting the post of President and owning CSK.
"This can be equated with the office of profit. It is a crude explanation. We will give you a choice of the two. Whether you want to continue in the BCCI or involve yourself with the IPL and India Cements," the bench observed during day-long arguments on A C Muthaiah's petition challenging the amendment brought by the Board to allow its administrators bid for IPC franchises.
Rohtagi, even while questioning Muthaiah's locus standi, submitted that Srinivasan had a mere 0.5 per cent stake and his family less than one per cent stakes in India Cements which bagged the franchise for Chennai Super Kings. Srinivasan is said to be the vice chairman and managing director of India Cements. The counsel repeatedly submitted that the petition was made with a malafide intent as the two had earlier contested against each other in Tamil Nadu Cricket Association elections.
Senior counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi said Muthaiah had every right to challenge the amendment as per rule 72 of the Board. He said that his complaint was not addressed by the Board earlier.